Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts We Bring

Paul Tokunaga (Vice-President, Director of Strategic Ministries at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA) shared this powerfully encouraging message at the Mt. Hermon JEMS Family Conference in July 2013. [Published here with permission.]

“Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring”
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And a summary about this talk was posted by Cyril Nishimoto (Executive Director at Iwa) ::

Paul Tokunaga and the Gift of Community Glue

… He launched into it with an imagined story about his bringing what he thought was a small, insignificant gift to a classy dinner party. But the gift turned out to be an enormous crowd-pleaser and the very thing the hosts were hoping for to make their special evening complete. With that, Paul asserted that Asian Americans have gifts to bring to the party that no one else can bring.

… Contending that Asian Americans have unique gifts to bring to “the party,” Paul identified four: the capacity for developing deep friendships and being “community glue;” wealth (higher personal and household income than the average in the U.S.); intellect and education; and Level 5 leadership.


* article cached from http://www.iwarock.org/archives-of-website-articles.html

Paul Tokunaga and the Gift of Community Glue

On a warm 4th of July evening on a stage set up on the recreation field on the grounds of the Mt. Hermon Conference Center, Paul Tokunaga, Vice President/Director of Strategic Ministries of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and long-time supporter of Iwa, delivered his fourth of five messages entitled “Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: The Gift We Bring.” He launched into it with an imagined story about his bringing what he thought was a small, insignificant gift to a classy dinner party. But the gift turned out to be an enormous crowd-pleaser and the very thing the hosts were hoping for to make their special evening complete. With that, Paul asserted that Asian Americans have gifts to bring to the party that no one else can bring.

Growing up in the San Jose area, Paul used to think that white people were a 10 and he, a Japanese American, could only maybe be as high as a 7. But after discovering that “God don’t make no junk,” he has come to believe that God loves him as much as the white leader and the black musician, and he and other Asian Americans are a vital, unique part of the Body of Christ.

Contending that Asian Americans have unique gifts to bring to “the party,” Paul identified four:  the capacity for developing deep friendships and being “community glue;” wealth (higher personal and household income than the average in the U.S.); intellect and education; and Level 5 leadership.

In expanding on the gift of “community glue” that group-oriented, harmony-seeking Asian Americans bring, he gave credit to his “pal” Stan Inouye for teaching him a word that might be considered a defining characteristic of Japanese culture–omoiyari, which roughly translated means “empathy.” One aspect of omoiyari is the ability to anticipate another person’s needs and desires and to meet them without the other person needing to ask. Paul noted that it has been an amazing experience at this conference that, for example, all he had to do was think “coffee” and two cups of coffee would magically appear, one from each side of him. He felt “omoiyari-ed to death” during the entire conference.

His ideas about Level 5 (executive level) leadership came from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t. Collins found that all the CEOs in the 11 out of 1,435 companies he and his colleagues studied that made the transition from good to great had “a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will. They are timid and ferocious. Shy and fearless. They are rare—and unstoppable. . . . They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” When Paul read that, he jumped up and down and exclaimed, “He’s talking about my people!”

His idea that Asian Americans have what it takes to be Level 5 leaders inspired him to create an Asian American leadership development project for IVCF called the Daniel Project. The 18-month project resulted in 12 of the 14 Asian Americans who went through it being placed in significant leadership positions. As a result, IVCF staff began to see the beauty of the way that Asian Americans lead—using their value for hospitality and community to build teams that others wanted to be a part of, and handling conflict sensitively and discreetly. The project was so successful, they ran two more, and they started ones for blacks and Latinos, as well as other parts of IVCF that wanted it as well.

Asserting that there were closet Level 5 leaders in the audience, and giving a reprise of the dinner party story, Paul ended his message imagining himself leaving the party and singing the words that the Black Eyed Peas made famous in their song, “I Gotta Feeling”: “Tonight’s gonna be a good night! Tonight’s gonna be a good night!”

After the evening session ended, Cyril had the great privilege of greeting and chatting with Paul’s stepmother. Residing in nearby Campbell, she, along with other family members, had come to hear Paul speak. She remarked that she was so glad she came and was delighted that she lived so close to such a wonderful camp that she never knew existed. After letting her know how much he and others appreciated and valued Paul’s leadership and ministry, Cyril congratulated her on her 90th birthday that he knew her family would be celebrating with her on Sunday, and mentioned that his own mother was 92. Establishing a friendly connection, he was able to engage in a warm, pleasant conversation.

At the beginning of his final message the next day, Paul thanked the audience for making his family members feel well-received as they all came away having had a very positive experience. Seven family members came, and for about half of them, this was the first Christian gathering they had attended, and the first time they heard him speak. It seems that the group-oriented, harmony-seeking, omoiyari-endowed Asian American Christians put into action their unique gift of “community glue” and warmly embraced Paul’s family with a special Christian welcome that had significant impact. It’s what Iwa likes to emphasize as the way to reaching effectively people of Japanese and Asian ancestry for Christ— through the ministry of hospitality. And Paul’s family got a good taste of it on the 4th of July.

When he “sang,” “Tonight’s gonna be a good night,” little did Paul know how true that would be. It could only be the work of an amazing and loving Lord God who not only blesses an audience by having the speaker lift up the special gift He has bestowed upon them (namely, community glue), but also blesses the speaker with that very gift He had him lift up. Praise be to God!